This week, SSDP gained another chapter in the Wolverine State, at Eastern Michigan University! EMU SSDP is one of three chapters in Michigan, and they are working to bring a Lowest Law Enforcement Priority policy to their community. I was able to catch up with Luisa Scavo, EMU SSDP chapter president, and this is what she had to say about her involvement thus far.
SSDP: How did you hear about SSDP?
A good friend of mine was very tight with a student involved at the nearby UofM Ann Arbor chapter and he would take me and some of our other friends to events of theirs, like letter-writing campaigns and movie showings.
SSDP: Why did you want to get involved/what made you decide to start a chapter?
It was actually that same friend’s idea to start an EMU chapter with guidance from his friend at UofM—I was originally the secretary. I got involved because I find the War on Drugs (and its effects) to be dehumanizing and downright criminal—I always have—and the day I woke up to find that I had the faculties and the resources to do something about it, I had no choice but to try.
SSDP: What has the reception been like on campus?
We’re still a bit of a fledgling organization and have faced no real adversity or opposition. I don’t think most of the faculty know that we exist. However, students have been very receptive whenever we’ve gone around collecting signatures for petitions.
SSDP: What are some things you have planned or wanted to plan for the spring semester?
We’re currently working on getting two drug-policy related ballot initiatives passed. One is for statewide decriminalization in Michigan and the other is a Local Law Enforcement Priority bill that would make cannabis the lowest law enforcment priority in the city of Ypsilanti, where EMU is located. We also want to set up lobby tables to get students registered to vote, screen some informed documentaries, and hopefully have a guest-speaker/panel event open to the school.
SSDP: What is the most challenging part of your experience starting/running the chapter so far?
Our most difficult task thus far has been finding a faculty advisor to vouch for us as part of becoming recognized as a student organization here at EMU. Most of the faculty didn’t really want their names on our paperwork, but in the end we found a truly supportive, knowledgeable, and helpful advisor who was worth the wait.
SSDP: What is the most rewarding part?
Seeing it all come together after a semester of not much happening has been truly excellent.
SSDP: What are you most excited about right now?
The LLEP initiative is extremely promising. We don’t have to collect too many signatures to get it on the ballot and it is incredibly likely to pass once it gets there. We won’t be doing anything but allowing the people to vote on the issue, but vote they will. It happened in Kalamazoo and I’m sure it will happen here. This isn’t legalization; this isn’t decrim. This is getting our local law enforcement to focus on serious crimes and not wasting time persecuting offenders in victimless ones.
SSDP: What is your vision for SSDP? Where do you see your chapter in a year? In 4 or 5 years?
It is my hope that one day there will be no need for SSDP. In a year, I see SSDP@EMU with double, maybe triple, our current membership and a full roster of campus-wide events. I see us visible and impossible to ignore. We can only get stronger from there.